My ambivalence towards advertising is derived from my ambivalence as a person. I work in advertising, so I can appreciate the effort and complexity in making a great relevant ad, but at the same time get angry when I come across a retargeted ad. After a thorough refection, here are 3 reasons emphasizing that ambivalence.
1 | I work in advertising
For the past 5 years I worked in advertising roles. I started in strategic roles at McCann and later shaped my role as a strategic consultant in digital media. During my work, I challenged the difficulties in creating an ad that would be relevant to the brand, match its core values, and would also target appropriately consumers with a strong consumer insight. When I contributed to a successful campaigns that matched all of the above, the satisfaction I got was pure bliss.
Nonetheless, I am aware advertising has its gray area. The ethical boundaries are undefined, and the whole truth is almost never presented to the consumer.
In many cases, advertisers focus on few features that can distinguish them from the competition, while mispresenting a clear picture of the product. For example, a snack brand can focus on the taste claim and ignore any clear reference to nutritional values and calories of the product.
In other cases, advertisers claim superiority by using research and survey findings that do not correlate with consumer’s consensus. Only recently, a new Cola was introduced by a major Israeli retailer, claiming its Cola tastes better than the traditional Coca-Cola. Although such claim is possible, it is highly unlikely that a private label Cola would match better the Israeli palette, since Coca-Cola dominates the Israeli Cola segment for decades with 90% market share by revenue.
In the eyes of marketers, you must be aggressive to put your product in consumers’ consideration set, especially in cases of an almost impenetrable market. In the eyes of consumers, there is a mismatch between expectations and personal experience that can be translated a consumer’s mistrust in the brand.
2 | I’m a consumer
As a consumer, I have some strong relationships with brands I encounter on a regular basis. I adore the design and innovation of Nespresso. I use Gillette exclusively to shave. I already replaced 4 iPhone models during the last decade and never bought a basketball shoe which is not a Nike shoe.
When I purchase, I believe the brand reflects well my needs. By choosing a preferred brand I guarantee quality, and even feel better about myself that I did not compromise. When these brands advertise I am open to hear about new products and watch ads. Consequently, I am willing to pay more or purchase more expensive products.
The aforementioned brands already dwell in my mind. I do not share the same sentiment towards a plethora of competing brands that convince me to buy with multiple ads and promotions.
In a way, experiencing a new brand brings within some uncertainty that I deter from. From my experience, the older I get, the less I am inclined to try new brands. It is similar to committing to a new TV series instead of watching the same episodes of a TV series I know, or waiting for a new season to arrive.
When I experience a brand that does not meet my expectations, I feel like I made a wrong decision. Moreover, I believe bad experience increases my skepticism towards new brands, and I either ignore or block myself from experiencing again. In that sense, I see advertising as a buffer between what I want and what I ultimately buy.
3 | It is almost impossible to get my attention
During most of the time I am indifferent to thousands of ads. My default is an ad-free interface. I usually watch video on-demand on TV or ad-block when I consume digital media, and I try to avoid clickbates and content marketing as much as I can.
I understand the publishers’ standpoint. They try to compensate print’s revenue loss by implementing more effective ad formats. For example, they cope with viewability issues by using out-stream ads, and they replace the traditional banner with video ads when possible. In fact, ads are in between the readers and the content they wish to read.
From the advertising perspective, innovative ad formats are considered as ingenious, as they increase viewability rates and improve click rates. Native advertising, which is in many ways ad in disguise of content, drives higher engagement rates, and marketers jump on this opportunity to see improvement in their KPIs.
From the consumer perspective, most tools are considered as intrusive and burdensome. The retargeting magic (when you search on the internet for some hotel, car or some product and then receive a relevant ad when you’re on a web publisher/social media), or the hyper targeting in social media make you think that your entire online journey is documented and used for commercial purposes.
Overall, I admire the efforts made by advertisers to increase the effectiveness of digital campaigns. However, my true desire as a consumer is to minimize my exposure to irrelevant or intrusive ads as possible.
My ambivalence towards advertising urges me to find a new mechanism in which consumers would recieve quality, ad-free content while engaging willingly with brands.